Of twenty-one bloody kitchen towels, only five were taken into evidence.
This claim has made its rounds over the years, but there is no truth to it. There were not twenty-one bloody towels at the crime scene. Twenty-one towels, washcloths, beach towels, and dish towels were collected, the vast majority of which had no blood on them at all. For instance, the police collected 3 damp towels from the utility room, 2 towels from the basket in the utility room, 4 washcloths from the top of the stairs, and even 3 towels from the backyard spa. None of these items were connected to the actual murders.
There is a rule of thumb in crime scene investigation: collect it all and figure out what’s important later. That is exactly what the police did in this case. Numerous items besides the above-mentioned towels were collected that subsequently had no link to the crime, such as cups, glasses, a cat brush, two baking sheets, a vacuum cleaner from the living room, and a false fingernail tip from the trash can.
Carolyn Van Winkle testified regarding the DNA analyses done on four towels/wash cloths that contained blood:
– State’s Exhibit 63 (SWIFS item #29) was a green and white plaid washcloth found on the floor in the area where Darlie stood that night. The blood on that washcloth was consistent with Darlie. Damon and Devon were excluded as contributors.
– State’s Exhibits 64 and 65 (SWIFS item #28) were two green and white plaid towels found outside the bathroom door in the hallway. Van Winkle was unable to get a result on these items, because they contained so little blood that no amplification or banding pattern could be obtained.
– State’s Exhibit 66 (SWIFS item #30) was a white towel found on the front porch. The DNA types were consistent with Darlie.
(Carolyn Van Winkle, Sec. 3169)
The blood evidence, combined with witness testimony, provides a fairly clear picture of how those four towels were used, as detailed below.
State’s Exhibit 63: Waddell testified that Darlie was holding a greenish colored rag on her neck when he arrived. Koschak testified that he later removed a green and white plaid rag before taking Darlie to the front porch. It’s safe to say that Exhibit 63 was the wash cloth near the kitchen bar and portable phone that Darlie used to call 911. The blood on it was Darlie’s.
(David Waddell, Sec. 352)
(Brian Koschak, Sec. 1480)
State’s Exhibits 64 and 65: Because these two towels yielded no DNA results, it’s unclear how they were used. However, they were found quite a distance from both boys’ bodies, and Darlie testified that she put more than one towel on her neck, so it’s more than likely that the blood was hers. There was no testimony to support diluted blood on this or any other item at the crime scene.
(Darlie Routier, Sec. 4961)
State’s Exhibit 66: This is the white towel that paramedic Larry Byford observed when he saw Darlie on the front porch. The blood on it was Darlie’s.
Byford: And then she had a rag. Either she was holding a rag or Koschak was holding it. It looked like a–a cup towel comes to mind.
(Larry Byford, Sec. 1538)
State’s Exhibit 87 (and Defense Exhibit 31): This was a bloody white towel near Devon’s body. Charles Hamilton collected this towel on June 10th, and Kathryn Long subsequently took blood samples from it. It’s unclear how this towel came to be near Devon, but one thing is certain: the blood on it was not diluted in any way, which rules out the wet towel theory.
(Kathryn Long, Sec. 2760)
Note: A supporter website which purports to give the “facts” of this case implies that Officer Mayne didn’t think this towel was important enough to collect. The following, in italics, is what they have posted to support their claim: The defense also brought up a bloody towel that was located near Devon. The following occurred during Mayne’s testimony regarding that towel and the officer’s decision-making about what evidence was important. Mayne acknowledged that he had collected records pertaining to a headstone the family had purchased for a cat, but not the bloody towel near Devon. Referring to the records of the headstone Mosty asked: Okay. And so you collected it?
Mayne: Yes, sir.
Mosty: Now, this is at — is this the same time that you are making the decision that the bloody towel by Devon is not important?
Mayne: No, this was later on in the day, sir.
Mosty: This is after you have already decided the towel is not important, you decide that the cat burial is important?
Mayne: Yes, sir.
This short exchange between Mosty and Mayne leads the reader to believe that Officer Mayne was already out to “get” Darlie by collecting only items that would incriminate her (documents such as life insurance policies, wills, birth certificates, etc., that were found next to the couch), and leaving items that might exonerate her (towel by Devon). That is absolutely untrue. The enormous task of collecting evidence in this case was assigned to several different crime scene officers in the days and weeks following the murders. Officer Mayne didn’t collect that towel; Officer Hamilton did.
Davis: Mr. Hamilton, looking now at State’s Exhibit 87, do you recognize that item, sir?
Hamilton: Yes, I do.
Davis: Okay. Is this also an item that you recovered from 5801 Eagle Drive on June 10, 1996?
Hamilton: Yes. It was recovered from the family room about two feet south of the edge of a large glass-top table.
Davis: Okay. Again, were you directed to take that particular item of property into your possession?
Hamilton: I was.
(Charles Hamilton, Sec. 2046-2047)
For years, supporters have said that there were “bloody towels all over the place.” Their intent is to convince the reader that if the police didn’t put them there, and Darin didn’t put them there, then Darlie must have been taking the towels to her boys. But their logic is faulty, because there were not “bloody towels all over the place.” Other than the towel by Devon, there were only four with blood on them. Two had Darlie’s blood. The other two, found in the hallway far from the boys, were inconclusive.